photo by emily weiss

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to mess with a good thing. Having obsessively tried many beauty and skincare products over time and settled into a skincare routine I (Lauren) am rather attached to, I’d hate to think about changing that regime and the awesome, effective products I love. But two articles I read last week–from Vogue and The New York Times–made me think. Is that youthful complexion, super hydrated skin, or perfectly rosy flush worth exposure to potentially toxic ingredients?

Here’s the thing: The jury seems to still be out on the exact harmful effects of certain synthetic ingredients, found in many beauty products, that may get absorbed by our skin. And like Vogue’s fashion writer, it might take pregnancy before I’m inclined to temporarily shelf all my favorite products. But I do think it’s kind of disconcerting that while scouring food nutrition labels has become second nature for most of us, we might be forgetting to examine those cosmetic labels. Because when you do…gosh there truly are a lot of ingredients that make my head spin! Yours too?

I love seeing more companies than ever trying to make beauty products with fewer chemicals and more natural ingredients. That’s definitely an important reason why brands like Fresh, which uses natural ingredients like sugar, soy, rice and clay, and Caudalie, whose skincare is infused with vine and grape extracts, are two of my favorites. But I certainly can’t claim that I’m paying close enough attention that I’m avoiding all bad-for-you chemicals like parabens or phenoxyethanol that may be lurking in products sold by big beauty brands.

I think we’re only going to see more natural beauty products on the market, which is a great trend as we become more aware as consumers of not just what’s going in our bodies, but also what we’re putting on our outsides.

I’d love, love to discuss because I know many of you probably have strong opinions on this topic! What’s your threshold–do you use only ultra-holistic, all-natural beauty products like those sold at Whole Foods? Maybe you even make your own food-based products at home? Perhaps like me, you pay some attention to ingredients? Or do you think we’ve all just become overly neurotic and don’t overthink your beauty purchases? I’d love to hear your stance!

Image by Emily Weiss for Into the Gloss

  1. Great topic!
    I try to approach skin care products the way I do food – our skin is our largest organ after all and I read that whatever we absorb into our skin goes into our bloodstream. I try my best to make careful choices but I also *try* not to obsess about it. I figure that we are already exposed to many, many, many chemicals already just by living and breathing – toxins outside, indoors (mattresses, sofas, etc…) – and we don’t always have control over it. So when it comes to skincare products and food, those are the things I CAN have more control over.
    I use a combination of homemade or really simple pantry products (I’ve tried just using straight-up coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil on my skin – and it works great in the winter!) as well as store-bought products. For store-bought products I look them up on the website safecosmetics.org – they assign a hazard rating with 0 being low hazard and 10 being high hazard. When I was going through the products I had been using for years – I was amazed to learn how highly (meaning hazardous) rated some of the products I had that were marketed as “natural” or “plant-based”. So I stopped buying those and did more research and found a brand I now like.

    Here’s an interesting video: http://safecosmetics.org/article.php?id=682
    One can counter-argue that perhaps it’s all propaganda… but then again, if certain ingredients have not been proven to be safe then I’d rather by safe than sorry!
    This turned out to be longer than I thought, but thanks for the opportunity to comment :)

    (Please note that I am not affiliated with safecosmetics in any way!)

    • I love that you’ve found a balance between controlling what you can but also not obsessing over it, Mia. And thanks for the great tip on safecosmetics.org — can’t wait to look up the products I use and see where they land!

  2. i’m excited to read these articles – thank you! my interest in natural skincare is definitely related to the fact that i primarily buy organic/natural/etc. foods and then is also driven by the fact that i have recently started to pay much more attention to skincare in general – and i decided that if i’m going to spend the money on it, it should be as natural as possible. partly b/c my skin is absorbing it and partly b/c of my belief (which could definitely be wrong!) that the brands that are doing natural skincare are newer and have to be more innovative in terms of what they do in order to stay natural – and i’m always up for the next best thing! i love caudalie and ren for my face, but haven’t really switched to natural cosmetics – i want to, but struggle to find ones that are as effective/the right colors/etc.

    also – i think that people focus on natural facial skincare, but if you are really concerned, the first place you should start is your bodywash! way more skin on the rest of your body than on your face! i love shea moisture body wash and then use coconut oil in the shower as a moisturizer…

  3. Mia is right. Our skin is our largest organ, which means that everything we put on it, our body absorbs. Chemicals in our skincare products may absorb into your body and brain 3 times faster than water and what we actually eat. However, that doesn’t stop me from donning my favorite products!

  4. Lately, the only thing I’ve been putting on my face in addition to the cleansing routine (Eminence) is 30 SPF sunblock. I decided to do an experiment where I don’t wear any makeup and instead load up on organic vegetable juices (I love Columbia Gorge and Pressed). I try to drink about 45 oz a day and mix up green and red juices. The difference is incredible. While before I relied on Fresh foundation to even out my skin and hide imperfections, my skin naturally became very smooth, even-toned, and healthy. After all, what makeup’s really trying to do is make us look vibrant and healthy, so what better way than to actually be that from the inside?

    I still like to put on mascara if I’m going out at night for a dramatic effect, but other than that, the makeup “fast” has been great. I feel more beautiful now than I did before.

    • Wow, what a great experiment! I’ve been reading more and more about the benefit of juices and am so intrigued about their full-body benefits. Since I already wear pretty minimal makeup and would love to cut it back even further, I might have to do a little experimenting of my own – thanks!

  5. Spot on with this write-up, I really think this website needs
    far more attention. I’ll probably be returning to read more, thanks for the advice!

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